Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Technology in the Classroom

I love how tech-savvy our students are.  If you haven't started using technology in the classroom, you definitely MUST jump on board.

The Promethean Board (much like a SMART board) is such a great tool.  The student love it, and it is easily visible for all to see.  Here, the student is matching the coins to correlate with our date…which is the 9th.  Soon, we will learn about trading 5 pennies for 1 nickel.  But for now, the students know how to trade 10 pennies for 1 dime.

Everyone knows how valuable an iPad can be in the classroom.  Here, a student got to make a "paper" snowflake.  Then, there were a few math questions to answer about the snowflake.  Winter, math, and art all combined in one beautiful package.  What's not to love?

Lexia Core5 is an amazing, web-based (an App) program for phonemic awareness and sight words.  Here the student has to drag the letters to their correct position.  What I love about this program is that it allows me to track the students strengths and challenges in order to differentiate and personalize their instruction.  The students look forward to their Lexia time each week, and even often choose it during their desert station time.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dollar Store Deal #1 - Domino Math

I tell you what - there are few things that are cuter than seeing a group of five year olds playing dominos…the same game that my 93 year old grandmother still loves to play.  I always thought of dominoes as a game for older more-seasoned people, but boy was I wrong!  My students loved it.  Plus, there are so many amazing math skills that happen while they are playing the fun game.

So, next time you are at the Dollar Tree, pick up a few sets of dominos and let the fun begin!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Assessment Offices

Yep - even in Kindergarten, we do assessments.  Because I want the formal assessments to be a TRUE picture of the student's individual ability, I made these "offices."  The students just love them because it makes them feel so grown up.  When I introduce them, we talk about someone that they know that works in an office or cubicle.  We talk about how things that our office work is not really for everyone to see.  So they pretend to be corporate executives and set up their offices.  Love it!

Here are some questions that I've gotten in the past:

  • What about test anxiety?  I feel that this system eliminates a lot, if not all, of that.  I tell them that this shows me how great I've done as their teacher - putting the pressure all on me.  Plus, who wouldn't want to hide behind a cute office?
  • What are they made of?  These are made from a standard piece of posterboard.  You can order something similar from Really Good Stuff and other school specialty suppliers, but why waste the money?  I cut the posterboard in half, and then fold it into thirds to create the office.  I glued a picture on that went with our classroom western theme to cutesy it up, but you can certainly leave it plain.  I do not put names on them so that I can use them from year to year.  They are laminated for added durability.
  • Does each student have their own?  I have enough for every child, but do not keep track of who gets which one.  It is just one less time-consuming task to do.
  • Where do you store them?  I keep them all together on a shelf, and only get them out when needed.  
Hope you enjoy this little organizational tidbit!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Classroom Management - Lunch Orders

I am blessed to work in a private school that still offers a full hot lunch program.  Each morning, the students have to let me know what it is they will be doing for lunch.  Are they going home or staying at school for lunch?  Are they leaving after lunch or staying all day?  Did they bring a lunch box?  Do they need to order a hot lunch?  WHEW - are you confused yet?  Well, you can only imagine how difficult this can be at the beginning of the year for my sweet little kinders.

I love that my school offers parents a choice of half or full-day kindergarten.  Some of the little guys just aren't quite ready for a full day.  But, for our half-day students, we throw one more amazing twist in there...they can stay for recess and lunch at no additional charge {I teach at a private, tuition-based school}.  Do keep things straight, I developed this system:  Red Apples, Yellow Apples, Green Apples.  Let's explain...

Red apples - These are my half-day students that leave at the 12:00 dismissal.
Yellow apples - These are my half-day students that choose to stay for recess and lunch, but leave right after lunch.
Green apples - These are my full-day students that stay until the end of the regular school day.

In order to help the students with this, they each color a set of apples on the first day of school.  They are given three apples, and color one red, one yellow, and one green.  Before I give them the apples, I've added a text box and put their name on it.  I left them blank so that you can add names via the computer or by hand...whatever makes your heart sing!

After they are colored, I laminate them, cut them out, and add a small piece of magnet on the back.  Now here comes the fun part.

Each morning, students have their apples on the board.  I use only the colors that I feel they are the most...that way I don't have a million apples all over the board.  All extras are in the jar on the board.  When they come in, they put their apple on the correct choice.  Then, after it is time to start the day, I simply ask the students what they would like for lunch.  We have a main hot lunch choice that changes each day.  Or, there are three other choices that are the same every day.  The chart is just a simple pizza cooking sheet from the Dollar Store.  I glued some magnets on the back.

In the beginning, it takes just a few minutes.  But by the third week of school, we are pros.  So proud of them!

Now, if you teach in a school that ONLY offers full-day or half-day Kindergarten...COUNT YOURSELF LUCKY.  Ha!  You can just have them color an apple and call it a day.

Enjoy getting a little more organized with lunch!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rainforest Rewards Classroom Behavior Management System

Okay, so let's talk about the little sweeties in our room.  They are adorable.  They are amazing.  Some of them love to do everything that the teachers asks them to do.  And well...some of them do not.  Such is life.  We are all human, after all.  I feel that the *KEY* to a great classroom behavior management system - other than consistency and love - is communication with the parents.  This can often be the most difficult to do because of the time that we have to devote to it.  I have been using this type of classroom management for several years, and I have not had one single complaint about it.  It is easy for me to do.  It is cute and kid-friendly.  It is easy for the parents to understand.  I could go on and on about the benefits of a system like this, but let's just jump right in.

I have made this system in several different themes.  This year, since my classroom is all fancied up in a Rainforest theme, I am using the "Rainforest Rewards."

As you can see from the above picture, it is super cute and very kid-friendly.  There is also a "tracking" sheet that I used to give the parents a daily report for their child's day.  It is very easy to do, and a great form of communication.  

{click on the picture to purchase and download the packet}

All of the details and instructions can be found in my packet.  It really is a great system.  I hope you enjoy it!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classroom Tour - the beginning stages

We are getting ready to start our third week of school, and I'm finally getting around to taking some pictures of my room.  It is still quite a work in progress, as some areas evolve throughout the year.  Here is a start:

We use the Popcorn Words set by Deanna Jump.  Last year was our first year to try it, and we loved it! Each time I introduce a new word, I write it on the corresponding popcorn kernel.  It is a great resource for the students to use when they need to be reminded how to spell a word.

This is our small group area for my differentiated groups - math and literacy.  The shelves will hold a lot of the supplies that I use during the groups.  The pocket chart on the wall labels one of my "areas," patterned after Kim Adsit's model here.  My four areas are labeled as "Forest Floor, Understory, Canopy, and Emergent" to coordinate with our Rainforest classroom theme.  The family groups are the "Alligators, Boas, Elephants, and Macaws."  

Shelves from Ikea will soon house journals and center supplies for them to use when they are done with their "have to" station.

This is my birthday wall/graph.  Each child has a balloon taped to a curly straw.  It is labeled with their name and birthdate, then put in the correct bag.  We will use this to see who has a special day coming up, as well as to graph birth dates during our calendar time.

Computer station, calendar station, another area, and a window treatment inspired by Pinterest

I love all of my Ikea shelves for supplies.  The cubbies on the bottom of the left shelving unit are used for each table's supplies.  Their crayon bags and coloring books go in the baskets.  Their MOOSE books stand up on the side.  I have a leader at each table that helps to get the supplies whenever they are needed.

Thanks for peeking into my room.  I will blog more when we change/adapt our room to better meet our needs.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ball Chairs for the Classroom - Really???

Yep - you read that correctly!  I have Ball Chairs for my Kindergarten classroom, and I love it.  I first read about them on Jessica Stanford's blog here.  As I did more research, I was very intrigued.  I am so blessed to work in a school where the Administration is willing to "think outside the box" and try something just a tad bit different.  Ball Chairs definitely fit the bill there!

So, we order the balls and the covers.  The covers are a MUST HAVE!  They have a base on the bottom to help keep the balls from rolling around.  They also are made of durable thick rubber-type fabric, so it gives the students a little grip to sit on.

While I'm only two weeks in to the school year, I'm really glad that we were able to pilot these chairs.  Here are a couple of things that I have learned so far:

  • The students will LOVE the chairs.  
  • It is important to teach the children that they are CHAIRS, not balls or toys.
  • While they should not bounce on the chairs - they are chairs, not balls after all - it is a good idea to give them special "Bounce Moment" times.  They love the impromptu bouncing!
  • You will get lots of questions about the ball chairs.
  • Your students may think they are hot air balloons.
  • You will probably want some regular chairs set aside somewhere in your room for meeting with parents or those times that you need to hang something on the wall.  Don't ask how I figured that one out!
  • Even the students with shorter legs love the Ball Chairs.
If you would like to read more about other schools that have tried the Ball Chairs, there are articles here, here, and here.  I'm sure there are lots more out there, too.  But these were enough to get my Principal to approve the purchase.  Success!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week 2013 - Classroom Digs

Seriously, who am I kidding?  We start school next Monday, and today is our second day of all day meetings.  While I should have been in my classroom getting things ready last week, I instead chose to go see my parents in Texas.  I definitely got the better end of the deal.  I am super excited about meeting my new kiddos, and about getting my room all finished and ready for them to come.  But for now...this is my chaos.

Just keeping it real!

I promise to come back and post the "later" pictures once I've gotten my act together.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week 2013 - 10 Things About Me

Okay, so I’m playing along with some great bloggers with a fun week full of posts.  I hope I make it to post each day.  This is my first week back to work from the summer.  So, needless to say, it is a bit CRAZY around here!  Here goes…

  • I was born in Tennessee {while my dad was doing a rodeo - ha!}, then lived in Texas for 20+ years.  I now have lived in Michigan for 14 years.  So, I am a true southern girl at in what my parents call "Yankee Land."

  • When my husband and I met, he lived in Michigan.  I lived in Texas.  We met in Branson, Missouri.  We went to college in Florida.  Whew...did you follow that?
  • I never had a sister - just one brother 4 years older than me.  Now I have two girls, three years apart, who are the best of friends.  There's nothing like the bond of sisters.

  • I love the scrapbook and make cards.  Whenever I'm creating, my table area is a DISASTER!  It drives my OCD husband bonkers, but I kinda like it that way.
  • I've never had a classroom above 1st grade.  I just adore the little guys.  But, I did spend five years as an elementary principal, so that definitely gave me a different perspective.
  • My brother and I used to chase hot air balloons, just to try to see where they would land.  I secretly always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride.  Somehow my sweetie found that out and proposed to me in a hot air balloon.  It was magical, and of course I said "yes!"  *LOVE*

  • I love Jesus...truly love Him and am so thankful for all that He has done in my life.  Life stinks at times, but I am so blessed to have HIM as my foundation.  I'm blessed to also have a husband who is committed to the Lord and seeks to follow Him.
  • I love to travel, and would go ANYWHERE in a moment.  I would love to travel to Europe one day.  My bestie and I are trying to convince our husbands to plan a trip for us to celebrate our 40th birthdays.  Wish us luck!
  • I am weirdly and deathly afraid of mice and rats.  After we moved to our new house in the country, I found a mouse {alive} in the lint trap of our dryer.  Yep - I screamed like a little girl and ran to the top of the couch.  Lordy, I'm sure the neighbors acres away heard me.
  • I love to sing.  I love music.  I am so thankful that God gave us music.  I have an appreciation for all types of music.  I'm pretty sure that if someone found my iPod, I'm afraid they would think I had multiple personalities based on the music alone.  You never know what you might find me listening to.  Ha!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Let's start with a FREEBIE!

I am decorating my entire classroom in a Rainforest theme for this upcoming school year.  I've had a farm theme for a few years, and honestly I am just tired of it.  So, this summer has been spent crafting and making things for my new decor.  Click on the image to download your free copy of my Rainforest Calendar numbers.  These could also be used as flashcards for number recognition or sequencing.  Enjoy!

It's the start of a new chapter

Well, I am finally joining the world of blogging.  I have no idea where this road will take me, but I AM READY.  I look forward to connecting with teachers all around the world.  I love that this medium provides us teachers with a creative and professional outlet to share thoughts and ideas.  I have been teaching lower elementary since 1999, and I cannot imagine any better job.  So, follow me, link with me, pin with me, enjoy TEACHING with me!